Money Coaches Canada

Retirement saving “out of sight, out of mind” for many – financial planner Janet Gray

April 1, 2021

Asked if Canadians are paying enough attention to the importance of retirement saving, Janet Gray of Money Coaches Canada has a simple answer. “No,” says the Ottawa-based financial planner.

“It’s always a case of `out of sight, out of mind,’” she explains over the phone to Save with SPP. A lot of people “don’t really look at it (retirement saving) until five to 10 years from their perceived retirement date.”

Some, she says, belong to pension plans and expect those will look after them. Most don’t have such workplace plans.

A key question, then, is whether or not your retirement savings from all sources will be enough, explains Gray. “You need to know your numbers – have you got enough?” she says. Will you be able to cover your costs after work is over?

And your perceived retirement date may change, she explains. Many of us find that poor health, or changes at work, force them to start retirement earlier than they expected. Again, the question for them is will they have enough, she explains.

When it comes to retirement savings, Gray says she has noticed that many have a sort of “all or nothing” mindset on the topic. People are either fully engaged savers, or they aren’t doing anything.

That said, some people are doing well on the retirement savings front.

“I’ve got clients in their 30s, professionals, who are doing well,” she explains. They want to have an enjoyable retirement, and unlike their parents, “they don’t want to work forever.” But not everyone is so organized, especially at a young age, she warns.

“We really need more financial literacy in Canada,” she says. Retirement savings, she explains, is really a case of “pay me now, or pay me later.” As an example, to match the money saved by someone who starts putting away $100 per month in their 30s, a 50-year-old would need to start putting away thousands a month (due to compound growth and early start), she says. And if you can’t do that, “you’re working until a later age than first planned,” she notes.

With retirement savings, “every little bit helps.” The stats show that most people live on average well into their 80s and even beyond, so without some sort of savings plan, you “won’t have as much money as you’d think you would have.”

It takes discipline to save. “Our culture is really hinged on a `spend now, buy now, live now’” theme, she says. People use credit, which works against them. “A $5,000 purchase plus interest on a credit card would take the average Canadian, making the average income of $29 per hour (from Stats Can), 211 hours to pay off,” Gray notes. Before you buy something for $5,000 on credit, remember that it could take 200 hours of work to pay for it, she warns.

So, how do people change their habits?

“The first step is awareness,” she explains. Once you get the need to have savings, “it’s like the old Nike ad – just do it. Starting small, say $25 a pay, is a good way, because once you’ve started and the money starts to pile up, you will be able to say to yourself “this is working!” and then keep doing it–or more, she says.

There are so many thousands who never take that first step, she says. Many have high levels of debt, which “holds people back so much,” she says, but even if you are restricted by debt you need to set aside what you can for retirement. The biggest mistake people make, therefore, is never getting started on retirement savings, she says.

We thank Janet Gray for taking the time to speak with us. Check out her Facebook page.

Starting small, and making automatic contributions, is something the Saskatchewan Pension Plan can help you with. SPP contributions can be made via automatic transfers from your bank account, and you can choose to increase those contributions when you earn more, or owe less. Why not check them out today?

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Apr 20: Best from the blogosphere

April 20, 2020

Stay the course on your retirement savings plans, experts say

If you’re a retirement saver, these past few months of pandemic-related market turmoil have no doubt raised your blood pressure and caused concern.

Experts tell us to take a deep breath, and to remember this crisis will eventually end, and things will move back to normal, reports The Record.

“While many Canadians may be panicking as they watch their retirement funds drop by tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, financial experts say it’s important to stay the course regardless of how close to retirement they are — and even if they’ve already finished working,” The Record reports.

“I would certainly encourage all of us to take a big collective deep breath,” states Karin Mizgala, co-founder and CEO of Money Coaches Canada, in the article.

If you aren’t planning to access the savings for retirement income any time soon, you should “stay the course” on your retirement plan, Mizgala tells The Record.

And even if you are withdrawing funds from your retirement savings, it’s important to put the market downturn in perspective, financial author Kelly Keehn says in the article.

“It’s not like you have to cash it all out the year that you retire, and I think people forget that,” she tells The Record.

If your funds are in a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF), the federal government is planning to put new rules in place reducing the amount you have to take out. (Full details on this rule change are covered in this article in Advisor’s Edge).

As well, the article says, you can choose to defer your withdrawals until later in the year, when markets are expected to start rebounding.

Noting that markets lost 35 per cent of their value in 2008/9, and then fully recovered and increased in value, Keehn makes an important conclusion.

“The takeaway is: If this was causing you sleepless nights, maybe in the future you need to adjust your risk tolerance and your risk exposure. But it doesn’t mean acting on it now. That’s for darn sure… This is not the time to make those changes,” she tells The Record.

If you are a member of the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, there’s a feature of the plan you should consider if, as Kelly Keehn says, the markets are causing you to worry and lose sleep. With SPP, one of your options at retirement is to receive some or all of your savings in the form of a life annuity. With an annuity, you get the exact same amount each month, regardless of whether markets are up or down. And you’ll get that amount for life – and can provide for your survivors too, if you choose to. It’s an option that offers peace of mind, so check it out on their website today.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22